In early 2007, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education welcomed the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Public Legal Education program staff, school teachers, principals, representatives of the Baku City Department of Education, and over 75 law students to kick off the second phase of the 2007-2008 Public Legal Education Program. Ilham Pirmammadov, Head of the Executive Board of the Ministry, heralded the program’s past successes and announced the Ministry’s commitment to ensuring the future sustainability, institutionalization, and growth of the program.
The ABA ROLI Public Legal Education Program is comprised of two core phases: first, training for law students, and second, lessons for school children. In the first phase, ABA trainers teach law students how to use interactive methods to present basic legal topics to children. In the second phase, the law students, in teams of two, move into third, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classrooms, inspiring young citizens to take a stand on equality, human rights, and corruption. This second phase began in mid-February.
Throughout the kick-off event, school representatives and students engaged in an active discussion about the purpose, impact, and structure of the program. Principals described the enthusiasm of the school children and the professionalism of the law students, addressing the concerns of new participants. Teachers from the experimental program—in which students and teachers teach lessons in pairs—explained the content of the curriculum and style of the teaching methods. Students explained how the program offered them a new role in their community and a chance to tackle its problems.
The impact of public legal education is multi-faceted. The program improves law students’ knowledge of the law, challenges them to communicate these legal rules to school children, and trains the students to use interactive teaching methods. The program also exposes school children to new concepts while providing them the tools to identify and discuss legal rules as well as to understand how they apply in their daily lives. Last, rights awareness engages a broad audience of teachers, parents, classroom coordinators, and school directors, who all participate with the school children in discussions inside and outside the classroom concerning the issues presented in class.
Over the past four years, the Street Law Program has grown dramatically. In its first year, ABA ROLI trained approximately 20 law students who reached out to 200 children in 10 schools. This year already, ABA ROLI has trained over 155 law students and recruited over 35 schools for participation in the program.